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Associated Press, Published November 03 2013

Cowboys avoid upset, beat Vikings late

ARLINGTON, Texas – Homecoming for Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder went from sweet to sour at the last minute.

Tony Romo answered Peterson’s go-ahead touchdown by throwing the winning pass to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds remaining, and the Dallas Cowboys avoided an upset with a 27-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Romo’s 7-yard pass to Harris came after an 11-yard touchdown by Peterson that had given Minnesota a 23-20 lead. The East Texas kid raised on the Cowboys had 140 yards rushing in his first game at their $1.2 billion stadium.

Ponder threw for a touchdown and ran for another score against his hometown team, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a fourth straight loss for the Vikings (1-7).

“It was a good experience to be here and close to home, play at this stadium and have family come watch,” said Ponder, who played high school football in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville. “But it’s a tough experience when we lose.”

Romo threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys (5-4) bounced back from a devastating loss at Detroit by avoiding what probably would have been a more damaging defeat.

“We just have to keep the belief throughout the whole football game,” said Romo, who was 34 of 51. “I never doubted that we would find a way to win this game, and we did it.”

Romo’s first attempt to answer Peterson’s go-ahead score was intercepted on a great play along the sideline by A.J. Jefferson – and was a reminder of the late pick he threw in Dallas’ only home loss this year.

Dallas didn’t get another shot after that play, with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos running out the clock and winning 51-48 on a field goal on the final play.

But the Vikings couldn’t convert this late Romo mistake into points and gave him the ball back at the Dallas 10 with 2:44 remaining.

Dez Bryant had a 34-yard catch that put Dallas in position for at least a tying field goal, which was possible because Blair Walsh missed wide right on the extra point after Peterson’s touchdown. But Romo kept pushing.

He threw 9 yards to Cole Beasley and 5 to Jason Witten, who led Dallas with eight catches for 102 yards. On the next play, Romo found Harris cutting between defenders in the middle of the field, and Harris dived over the goal line.

“I think if you pull back and you really look at Tony Romo’s career, people want to talk about some of these plays where things didn’t work out,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “But if you really look at his body of work and you look at it objectively, he’s done this kind of stuff a lot.”

Peterson got Minnesota’s go-ahead drive earlier in the quarter going with a 52-yard run, then went the final 11 on fourth-and-1. He easily got the first down and carried safety Jeff Heath the last few yards, with Heath trying to strip the ball as Peterson crossed the goal line.

“I don’t really care about the yards,” said Peterson, who had 25 carries and another 37 yards receiving. “I want to get some Ws. I don’t want to rush for 2,000 yards and be sitting at home watching others play.”

Minnesota 3 7 7 6 – 23

Dallas 3 3 14 7 – 27

First Quarter

Dal – FG Bailey 41, 6:51.

Min – FG Walsh 23, 2:08.

Second Quarter

Dal – FG Bailey 44, 6:35.

Min – Ponder 6 run (Walsh kick), 1:41.

Third Quarter

Dal – Witten 26 pass from Romo (Bailey kick), 11:38.

Dal – Hayden fumble recovery in end zone (Bailey kick), 11:28.

Min – Rudolph 31 pass from Ponder (Walsh kick), 8:11.

Fourth Quarter

Min – Peterson 11 run (kick failed), 5:40.

Dal – Harris 7 pass from Romo (Bailey kick), :35.

A – 85,360.

Min Dal

First downs 22 20

Total Net Yards 393 350

Rushes-yards 29-169 9-36

Passing 224 314

Punt Returns 2-35 1-5

Kickoff Returns 6-124 2-60

Interceptions Ret. 1-1 1-0

Comp-Att-Int 25-37-1 34-51-1

Sacked-Yards Lost 2-12 3-23

Punts 3-37.7 5-44.4

Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0

Penalties-Yards 4-35 5-45

Time of Possession 31:27 28:33


RUSHING: Minnesota, Peterson 25-140, Ponder 4-29. Dallas, Murray 4-31, Romo 1-8, Randle 1-3, Dunbar 3-(minus 6).

PASSING: Minnesota, Ponder 25-37-1-236. Dallas, Romo 34-51-1-337.

RECEIVING: Minnesota, Jennings 6-56, Carlson 4-23, Peterson 3-37, Wright 3-31, Patterson 3-13, Rudolph 2-35, Simpson 2-24, Felton 1-11, Gerhart 1-6. Dallas, Witten 8-102, Beasley 6-68, Bryant 6-64, Murray 6-19, Dunbar 3-17, Williams 2-33, Harris 2-13, Hanna 1-21.